Most certainly, you are expecting this article to give you a list of craft activities, a list of events in your neighbourhood or some summer class to attend. Let us disappoint you by telling you that there is none of that. However, we promise to bring back an old-wisdom worth a million bucks.
The Parent Rant
Vacation time haunts parents weeks before it is expected to set in. Parents are all set, trying to find fit an activity into every free hour of their children. It’s a norm and there is no better way to compete with neighbourhood kids who have signed up for summer camps and activity classes already.
You certainly have your child’s best interest in mind. You don’t want him to get cooped up in a room with a gadget. After all, TV, laptop and mobiles are ruining childhoods and parents better come to their children’s rescue. Vacation activity classes help reduce the guilt and give parents the coveted badge of good parenting. What is wrong with that?
The Children’s Plea
Children are over-stimulated with activities lined up one after another. And they are getting used to it. Give them a moment of free time and they feel lost. They say they are getting bored. They want to be entertained every single day of the school vacation.
Take them for football, follow it up with craft, bring them back for evening ballet and round up with a new app on the phone. However, don’t do it every single day. The next day better be a visit to the museum or the animal farm. How fulfilling ! Children want to go off to sleep, thinking they had a day full of work. What is wrong with that?
The Big Cry
Children’s time is being artificially filled in with forced art and craft activities, trips to museums and play areas. Though reluctantly, parents are also downloading new apps every few days to keep up with the entertainment demand. The result? When you take your child out for a stroll in the park, he will sit down on a bench and wonder if he will get a phone to kill time. He does not seem to look at nature in awe. The element of curiosity is lost. He is detached with the happenings around him.
The Secret Sauce
Now is the time to give your child the gift of boredom. Let this school vacation be different.
Let him find his way
Oh yes, we are serious. Make no plans for him. Sign up for no vacation activities. Having no plans or nothing to do can be a boon. A child should not have every waking minute pre-set. Simply push him out of the house ( in a safe neighbourhood of course) and let him figure a way to self-entertain. Help him for a few days, if you have to. Show him what it is like to spot butterflies, jump behind toads, make paper boats in the rain, dance carefree and run wild. Ask him to lie down in the grass and watch nature in action.
Nature-play he learns now will help him tackle stress even later in life. When you find solace and happiness in nature, you become self-aware and nothing pulls you down.
Let him bond with you
School days are marathons. We run about figuring the day’s chores and the sun sets before we know. Vacation is the time to bond with family, siblings or distant cousins. Screens should be switched off completely. Family games like Ludo, Monopoly etc. should come out of the closets. The memories you make during the vacations will stay with them even as they age. Play ‘cop and thief’ or mimic his favourite characters. Laugh till it hurts and play till you drop.
When you ask children, what does daddy do? They say, ‘nothing much, he goes to office.’ It will be so wonderful if he says.’Oh, daddy? He is my Superhero. He plays Spiderman and helps me save the world.’
Let him discover new friendships
Take him to the park and let him mingle with children, you never knew were living just blocks away. Call over distant cousins and introduce them to each other. You would have done your part. What happens next will surprise you. He will never ask for a dumb screen. He will begin enjoying human interactions and will cherish his time with the cousins. He will be overwhelmed when the same cousin calls to wish Birthday, to discuss next vacation plans or to discuss important matters like new collections. Your children will look forward to vacations and their time with friends or cousins.
Needless to say, these bonds will make him stronger mentally and emotionally. He will have somebody to lean on for advice, even later in life.
The Million Dollar Age-Old Wisdom
By now, you would have got the crux of the matter. There is no secret sauce. The answer lies in our own childhoods. We never had the luxuries children are showered with today. Children today, have every happiness money can buy.
What they lack is a free-spirit. They are missing the freedom of choosing their day’s activities. They have not learnt the art of doing nothing. They are so much less creative. Force an idle day and be surprised with what they end up doing. They will sow plant seeds and be little gardeners. They will cycle in the neighbourhood and will discover new ways back home. They will play cricket and celebrate victory with money from the piggy banks. They will do secret things at their friend’s house and come back with a sandwich for you. They will spend all day searching for aliens and be happy when they see pug marks.
You will be at loss of words when you see your little one play detective, cop, barber, chef, cricketer and so many things you never knew he could do. So, let him be. Don’t kill time during school vacations. Make the most of it !